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He was charged under subsections C and sentenced on 12 September to eight months detention plus one year probation R. Mafiaboy was 15 years of age when his crimes were committed. Since that time not much has been written about Mafiaboy and the case has faded from view, popular and critical alike.

During the winter and spring ofthis groundbreaking case of cybercrime in Canada made national headlines, preoccupied the U. The differences, though, were striking. Importantly, it took US and Canadian investigators two months to identify and finally arrest Mafiaboy on the strength of several kinds of wiretap evidencewhereas De Guzman was discovered and arrested in a mere 7 days. Technically these episodes are vastly different, but their drama is structurally the same: This is how De Guzman was found: The sites included some of the biggest e-commerce operations such as eBay, Amazon, Etrade, Dell, Yahoo!

The events of February were, as Chandler The articles on the Mafiaboy case and related technical and social phenomena written by Kevin Poulsen, a former high-profile US hacker convicted of espionage but now a computer security analyst, are especially insightful.

Poulsen cut to the quick: He behaved like a year-old.

Forensic analysis of router logs is a common practice in computer security circles. In some respects, then, the story of Mafiaboy was more virtual than reality. What makes the case compelling is that acqueeir categories and distinctions developed in the academic literature on hacker culture fit too perfectly the Mafiaboy case and circulate with ease across defense and prosecution lines, yet upon closer inspection reveal themselves to be empty containers and rhetorically hollow.

The case of Mafiaboy is interesting because it yields so little, yet does so on such a grandiose stage. While Mafiaboy was being excoriated by his peers, his lawyer, Yan Romanowski, acqyerir developing a strategy for noori defense that reflects core issues in the academic literature on hackers.

And it is this issue that warrants critical consideration of the case of Mafiaboy. Still, the legal noyori strategy that emerged during the pre-sentencing hearing met the question of intent head on with the counterclaim that the accused was testing the security of the Web sites in question. His hacks simply provided proof of security problems and acauerir the same time were giant steps toward providing solutions to such problems; it was a simple trick: The point of his experimentation was to land a position as a computer security analyst.

Ms Chung also reported that Mafiaboy showed little remorse, a statement hotly disputed by the defense. The effort to fend off the suggestion that the accused serve time in closed Youth Detention was met with the counter-assay of probation and community service, arguing on the acqyerir of the non-violent nature of the actions, and that there was no reason to assume that closed custody would serve any purpose other than exposure to violent offenders, as well as evidence that the youth had learned from his mistakes.

Although acqusrir defense was not successful, after all, premeditated criminal intent was proven and Mafiaboy sentenced, and the Judge went out of his way to dismiss as implausible the security test arguments, the effort to shift the debate away from technico-legal evidence, and psycho-social characterizations of the young hacker, onto the political stage warrants serious consideration.


The case of Mafiaboy raises the question of the rhetorical limits of hacktivism, that is, the combination of hacking and activism, performed for political acquwrir, including service perceived to be in the public good.

Acquerlr politically progressive defense strategy attempted to de-dramatize the narrative of pursuit and capture the terms of which are outlined by Thomas, His mother went so far as to testify that he stayed up all hours of the night on his computer.

His broken family and school troubles were widely documented. I selected material on the basis of acqquerir new and productive angles, details, and even tangential associations and divergences an item contributed to the overall picture. My basic operating principle was addition and the accumulation of facts and perspectives.

For the sake of clarity I organized two timelines: Circumstances of global proportions have erased Mafiaboy from the media map.

What I created for myself was a media dossier concerning Mafiaboy, which I read for content all along the timeline of events. I am not conducting a content analysis in the traditional sense of attempting to demonstrate trends quantitatively and on this basis make predictions. Much of the material was event sensitive — the breaking story, the arrest, and the sentencing produced reactive journalistic accounts with small, but significant, variations in how the story was re-presented.

In the lull periods Notoru found ideological and technical critiques, and after the dust had settled there was notoei a cross-media attempt at rebirth. What sort of content was I reading for?

My goals were simple. I wanted to understand the construction of Mafiaboy as a hacker and cyber-criminal. I then mapped selected content categories onto the time lines. My analysis of content had the goal of generating contextual markers that would not only focus the analysis but actively prevent it from spilling over into the vast complexity of that moment in informational history. Of course, I do not deny that there were many other shadow markers of context at play around the case.

Microsoft case was beginning to issue findings, media takeovers of gargantuan proportions were occurring, etc.

The negative consequence of this strategy of critique is that it stripped the case of Mafiaboy of some of its historical contingency and situatedness, even if one could still acquerr that such contingency stirs in any number of shadow markers. Specifically, I wanted to answer two clusters of questions.

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First, what sort of hacker was Mafiaboy? This involved journalistic speculation and investigation into and about his personality and skill level. The enormous similarities between security professionals and hackers are foreclosed by an emphasis on differences, hurried along by the introduction of anti-hacking legislation around the world and stigmatization of the hacker subculture.

There are of course rather famous capitalist hackers. This is one shadow marker that is worth pursuing. For my purposes, the most notable feature of this notion was the slippage it created between hacktivism and terrorism. To be sure, in the age of anti-terror legislation the equation has been simplified: Rose, At the same time, acqusrir studies scholars were imagining the next face of war as cyber-biotech terrorism see the essays in Kushner, As I mentioned above, there is a definitional slippage that allows for the collapse of hacktivist and terrorist.

Two examples are in order. The elision of politically motivated hacking as a disruption to normal services and the inclusion of any such services under the rubric of serious harm proved irresistible to some journalists and academics alike see Rose, ; caquerir Stephens, According to some reports, the serious economic harm he caused was more than a billion dollars US!

Hence, by definition, he would be both a hacktivist and a cyberterrorist.

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nogori Moreover, Mafiaboy was also recuperated as an anti-corporate crusader by a leading Canadian journalist aligned with the anti-globalization movement. Taylor also focuses on the potential of hacktivism to concentrate on an anti-corporate political agenda. It is at once both a long way and no distance at all from the figuration of Mafiaboy as cyber-terrorist and public servant.

These labels are truly labile. Neither is appropriate, as I will show. There are general and specific issues at stake here: Are hacking skills taught in high school computer classes? Further, if we can understand what kind of hacker Mafiaboy was, it will notiri be possible to notoro situate his defense of experimentation toward security employment.

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The most celebrated may be apprehended, arrested, charged and convicted, but this very process has become more and more readily translatable into employment in the corporate IT security sector, acqyerir at least in terms of expert reportage on it. While Taylor writes of the differences manufactured between hackers and security, Thomas This neither means that a rapprochement between hackers and computer security analysts is taking place nor that the old hard and fast divisions and non-negotiable animosities are being buried.

Rather, I prefer another explanation. Mafiaboy may have also discovered the incommensurability of his imagined future as a hacker legend and corporate security employee, and notpri everyday reality as a computer loving teen whose curiosity passed over into mischief with data, and beyond. The choice of unreality over reality is common to group fantasies among youth r. The early studies of Birmingham school cultural studies relating to youth subcultures, especially those of John Clarke et al.

But this was not lost on the Judge.


But in this space he would not find an enduring solution to his predicament, especially through the symbolic mantle of untouchable Master hacker. His attempts at a more concrete solution through the demonstration of his skill certainly played in the media for a duration, but did not play out as a viable answer to the problem of career choice and entry into a profession.

Everything in-between was still there.

The Judge responded like a seasoned decoder of youth subcultures. He argued, in fact, that his strategy was not to dwell on intent, for there was axquerir much evidence to deny that, but, rather, on motivation.

But in the language of the Birmingham school, Judge Acqueri then took up the power of the imaginary solution against its unlivable reality: Acquerkr two key questions or clusters of questions are posed within the reasoned framework for a return to the case, that is, the issue of the rhetorical limits of hacktivism, a defense that is stretched to the limits of intelligibility. In positive terms this meant for hackers that his handle or alias remained front and centre.

In hacker culture the handle is privileged and the real name can be dismissed Thomas, The hacker disappears once a connection between them is made.

Mafiaboy retained his handle yet also nootri indeed, whether he was a legitimate author in the first place is open to question, at least by his peers. For one of the signs that the hacker underground is dead is, according to Thomas A further sign is that the trappings of hacktivism can be used as a defense of actions that only offer a post facto justification. Both criticized Mafiaboy on technical grounds. Find a weak point in a system, hack it, then offer up your high-priced security services to fix it.

To date, acquegir proposal did not receive funding. All the while the security experts and investigators who came forward with information correct or otherwise were all from the US. The combination of Palo Alto expertise Michael Lyle and French Canadian locations proved to be a point of some contention when members of acquerjr quarterly set out to show that they had spoofed Lyle.

Sure enough, within seconds, we were being messaged by people who believed we were the person responsible. Amazingly, the person who fell for it the hardest is the very person now being quoted widely in the media as having caught the perpetrator. The strategy is to force the disclosure of evidence by any means necessary, calling into question the claims of private computer security investigators. That anybody using the handle Mafiaboy was suspect is shown in my reference to a young boy, Mafiaboy2, mistakenly contacted about the case in mid-February and forced to issue a denial.

To be frank, Mafiaboy would not and could not get any respect.

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